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Generation Lance

If you’ve been around marketing long enough, you hear something about generational differences once every few seconds. Ditto for HR.

There’s all kinds of studies that generally seem to separate our current population into six big groups of generations:

  • Greatest generation
  • Silent generation
  • Baby boomers
  • Gen X
  • Gen Y (or Millennials)
  • Gen Z

Lots of people have heard about these.

Now, there’s even more precise micro-generations. There’s Generation Jones, a sort of in between group of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

There’s also now The Oregon Trail Generation, which is special because it covers when I was born, the cusp between Gen X and Y.

But you know, it’s not a perfect description of me. Yeah, it’s closer than Gen X or Gen Y but let’s really nail this.

I’m creating a micro-micro-generation that more accurately describes my qualities. I’m calling it Generation Lance. It’s a micro-generation of The Oregon Trail Generation which is a micro-generation on the cusps of Gen X and Gen Y.

How do you know if you’re in Generation Lance? It’s easy:

  • Born in late October in 1981 between 11:04 and 11:06 AM
  • Grew up in a small suburb and then moved to a bigger suburb of Portland, Oregon
  • Went to a state school that was about as far away from home as possible without leaving the state
  • Got married between 23 and 25, had a kid at 33
  • One cat
  • Homeowner with two TVs
  • Gym member but goes inconsistently
  • Works for a marketing agency after working in HR and writing
  • Most frequently reads Deadspin, Reddit, and Slate
  • Name is Lance Haun

I feel really confident in this profile I’ve built for my micro-micro-generation, but if you have more questions about it, I’m happy to do some consulting work for your organization for a few hundred dollars an hour. After identifying member(s) of this generation, I can help you build a more complete persona through surveys and personal interviews.

This is really the next big thing in marketing and HR. Get on this train now so you don’t miss it.

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The Gig Economy Problem

If people want the gig economy to succeed, we have to create infrastructure that actually supports it

Being employed today is a pretty good deal if you can swing it. At least in the U.S., it generally means getting paid predictably, some sort of benefits (including the all important health care coverage), and a semblance of stability. For most people, it involves one job. It’s fuel for our economy. I think it’s a good thing.

Over the last decade in particular, the gig economy has taken hold. In its best case, the arrangement is simple and benefits everyone. Instead of pseudo-permanent employment, you work in and out of organizations as needed. You set your rate as you need and the work is negotiated. At the end of the project, you go along your way or maybe there’s something new and you can continue working together.

At its worse, it exploits workers and takes advantage of legal gray areas, increasing regulatory burden, taxes, and critical costs like health insurance, placing it onto the laps of vulnerable individuals. Choosing to venture into the gig economy on your own volition and being placed into it by circumstance will probably dictate your feelings on it.

In the U.S., people in the workforce used to be pretty strictly divided up into employees and business owners/entrepreneurs. The gig economy—a sort of gun for hire—was rare and for the privileged. Household employees and workers, often paid under the table, could be considered some of the earliest gig workers. Independent business consultants could be another one.

Now, sites like TaskRabbit help bring the gig economy to almost anyone—buying or selling. Craigslist has done the same informally for years. And of course, apps like Uber package the sharing economy into a familiar package for buyers.

There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages of this change. I’m not in a position to do a full piece on ways it can work and ways that it doesn’t but I it’s not going away. If you really want to get into it, a recent piece by The New Yorker can give you a long glimpse into this world.

What I worry about is that we are setting up gig workers for failure.

Our economy and regulatory system is built for the paradigm of either a legitimate employer with a business or employees who get paid by those employers. If we want a gig economy, we should do it in a way that doesn’t further marginalize vulnerable workers and shrink the middle class.

Health care costs

The biggest burden for those in the gig economy is often finding affordable health care. For older workers, it can easily clear $1,000 a month. A cool grand before you make a dime is a tough pill to swallow.

Complain about the Affordable Care Act all you want but at least it was trying to address this issue, even though it was toothless to ultimately tamp down costs. Whatever reversal Congressional Republicans and President Trump are seeking will not fix this. In fact, any health care reform that doesn’t result in more accessible and affordable options should be a non-starter for anyone who supports the gig economy.


Again, our entire system of taxation was created for businesses and individuals working for them so guess what isn’t so great when you work in the gig economy? No shock, gig workers get raked over the coals—even if they end up not technically overpaying. Most overpay or end up missing something and getting audited down the road.

When you think of reducing corporate tax rates, you probably think of companies like Apple or Exxon that don’t really need a tax break. But taxation in this country is incredibly complicated and it hasn’t caught up with the gig economy. When you make an Uber driver pay a higher tax rate than an oil giant, there’s a big problem with that.


One of the ways companies that are building apps and business models around the gig economy, somewhat ironically with regular salaried workers instead of gig employees, is by finding regulatory white space. Great for the gig companies but they aren’t often the ones who end up paying if that regulatory white space gets inked.

In fact, Uber fighting worker misclassification is a rarity. More often, gig workers end up paying when their work bumps up against regulations.

We don’t need to feel bad about the regulatory burden we place on huge organizations but we have to be more thoughtful about the way that trickles down into the gig economy if we’re going to support it.


Ten percent of people in the U.S. lack access to basic broadband internet. The divide is to the extreme in rural and poorer areas of the country, where it is almost or essential to be connected in a gig economy.

As the FCC moves to dismantle net neutrality, it doesn’t bode well for this divide. The lack of choice coupled with little incentive to develop in areas most needed will certainly mean that people will continue to live with either more expensive wireless options or with little option at all.


Maybe most importantly, as we look to the future, we have to ask how you prepare the kids growing up to work in a gig economy? For the last 70 years, our education system has been oriented toward producing job-ready workers for employers.

As we look at opportunities like reviving trade schools, we should also remember that the people that have been able to sustainably succeed in the gig economy are people that have a diversity of skills and interests. Increased specialization can actually lead to less opportunities in the future if you don’t continue to learn and pursue new skills and pay attention.

That’s an entirely different skill set than the one that predates the gig economy.

Maybe the gig economy will make us better. Maybe it won’t. If you’re a proponent of it, you can’t advocate for structural changes to regulations and costs that also actively do harm to the people doing the work in the gig economy. We need to make investments in our infrastructure and initiate changes to the way we take care of people and pay the government’s bills.

It’s probably too much to ask to do this before it really takes off, but at the very least, we should try to be responsive to these changes. So far, we’re not there yet.

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Four Steps for Simplifying Your Digital Life

“Reversing years of negligence will take a bit of time.”

That’s what I told myself a year ago. I was woefully unprepared for what I needed to do in order to actually clean up the mess I had made.

For the past five years, I was responsible for keeping two dozen websites up and running, including a few significantly bigger than my own. I had a blog that continued to age—poorly, I might add—with very little fresh content. Social media was a mess. I could barely keep up with the people I wanted to and knew far too much about people I didn’t even remember.

I also have a good job. One that keeps my mind engaged and my writing fingers busy. A family and a social life took up some of that time, too.

But, I still wanted to write. Shit like this post, sure. Hopefully, other things that are more entertaining and fulfilling.

At some point, I had to cut bait with some of my digital baggage.

Here’s the process I went through:

  1. Be self-aware. The first to go was maintaining websites, as it had became both my most stressful and least enjoyable task. I still have a few left to migrate but I have the biggest headaches off my hands for good. I didn’t realize how much I disliked maintaining websites until I tried it and then tried to get out of it for a year. I could’ve probably saved a year of stress just by being more self-aware of how truly loathsome the task had become.
  2. Choosing to be public or private. I made my Facebook and Instagram profiles private and deleted people I couldn’t recognize if I ran into them on the street. I became more public on Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m not a privacy freak like some people but being intentional about where I put things helped forge better connections with people I wanted to keep up with.
  3. Deleting old content. I spent a few weeks going through every page on my blog and chose to delete a good 60–70 percent of the content. Some of it still lives here and I might cull more in the future. Really though, the biggest challenge for me was deleting content that I worked hard on that was no longer relevant to me (or if I’m being honest, practically anyone). That’s always been tough for me.
  4. Simplifying processes going forward. The less I have to think about how something gets done, the more I can focus on simply getting it done. Logging into my WordPress dashboard with updates needed and comments to be moderated meant there was work before the work could even start.

So as part of this, I moved my blog from a self-hosted WordPress install to Medium. You’ll find writing that revolves around work, life, and technology. All of my favorite things and the things I generally wrote about anyway. I also included a special section that I used to archive what I considered to be the best of my old HR blog, too.

For me, it was making an intentional decision about where I spend my effort and to make some content decisions that weren’t easy, but necessary, so I could keep writing.

So, if you’re looking for an old article, you might not find it. That’s okay. I hope to share new stories that you’ll enjoy more.

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10 Years Later: The Best of

I started writing about HR issues more than 10 years ago. I was anonymous for three years and wrote more than I ever had. In that time, I wrote a lot of stuff. It launched me out of my HR career for the better.

Some of it is still pretty readable. Most of it wasn’t.

Instead of making you wade through a ton of self-referential posts and entire blog posts dedicated to complaining about blogging or blogging drama, I just decided to go through everything and pick my favorites.

So here you go. The best 40–50 posts from the archives of

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How You Can Help Refugees Today

What we’ve heard recently about people fleeing war-torn countries is demonstrably horrible. Just as what happened a little over a year ago, too many people simply don’t understand or don’t care about the terrible conditions these people are fleeing — and how many countries with resources much smaller than our own are doing much more to help.

If you feel helpless, or you don’t feel like entering the political fray, it can seem like there are limited options to do something positive or something that has an immediate impact. Here’s what I do know: There are many refugees already in the U.S. right now. They are trying to adjust to a new way of life and often, they are separated from their families.

It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes. But if you live in the U.S., there’s a very high chance that your family has made it here under similar, uncertain circumstances. Everyone gets help along the way to make that transition, whether from the government, community, churches, families, or friends.

If I escaped a war- or poverty-torn country and relocated to a country that now has a really unfriendly position toward people in my situation, I’d be scared. I hope nobody ever has to deal with that.

So, a little over a year ago, I researched what I could to help.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement is the national agency that coordinates refugee assistance. If you check out their website, and click on the state you live in, you’ll see actual assistance is provided by a patchwork of public and private nonprofit organizations.

While every organization is different, here’s what I’m told most of them need right now:

  1. Money: These organizations help provide housing, food, and medical assistance and the easiest way to provide that is through the purchasing power of money. Most of them get special deals because of their position and most of the resources they have easy access to are the ones they get locally. This is the fastest and easiest way to help.
  2. Household goods and clothing: If money is tight or if you want to supplement your donation, you can donate household goods in good condition and clothing — especially clothing for women and children.
  3. Volunteers: Part of the mission of our local organization is to mentor and connect with refugee families and help them get settled. Whether it’s taking them to a doctor appointment or just working with them on English skills, it’s an hour or two out of your week to have another friendly face in a strange place.

There are a lot of programs that also help refugees still stranded abroad as well as political advocacy groups that are both perpetually underfunded. No effort is wasted effort. I know my actions have made a difference though and the impact is immediate.

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You’ll Be Okay. We’ll Be Okay.


Dear Elida,

This last Tuesday was the first presidential election of your lifetime. It was the ninth of mine.

The first election I could remember was in first grade. We had a discussion as to why we were going to vote one way or another. I supported Vice President George H.W. Bush and I told the class that I liked him because he reminded me of my grandpa and my parents thought he was good. It seemed like good enough reasons to me.

There was this other kid named Ross and he told the class that he thought the Vice President was going to be a really bad and scary president. He was going to support Governor Michael Dukakis and he wanted everyone in class to support him too.

I didn’t like Ross much that day.

We went into our mock voting booths and we punched our cards for who we chose for president (as well as a few other fun voting things like our favorite candy and our favorite pet). Everyone got the opportunity to voice their opinion. After everyone had voted, our teacher counted the ballots.

The candidate who I thought was good, the one who reminded me of my grandpa, lost. I blamed Ross and he celebrated defeating the mean Vice President. Just a handful of my classmates had agreed with me. I thought I had done something wrong.


The next day, the real results came in. Vice President Bush had won! I couldn’t wait to tell Ross. The Vice President couldn’t be that bad if all these people voted for him. Plus, Ross was a jerk about winning.

“I can count all of the votes Bush got on one hand,” he had laughed at me.

But when I got to school, Ross was as worried as a six-year-old could be about something that had far reaching national and geopolitical consequences. He wasn’t sad or mad at me. He was scared. I don’t know what his parents had told him but it didn’t matter.

We didn’t gloat that day because we won. Instead, we colored and we played basketball together. We read books and learned new math problems to solve. We had lunch together and laughed at first grade boy humor. We played the drums way too loud in music class.

We told him that he’d be okay. We told him we’d all be okay.

Even though we didn’t really know how.

We had no control over the outcome, of course. We didn’t know what the Vice President’s policies really were. Even if we did, we couldn’t comprehend the impact they would have. We trusted adults who told us, regardless of the outcome, we’d figure out a way to make it to the next day.

Now, more than 10,000 of those days and seven elections later, the feeling of voting hasn’t actually changed much. It’s okay to feel uncertain in your choices and in your future. It’s okay to worry or to be scared. I sat down on election day and worried about you. I hoped you would get better opportunities than me and live in a world that’s better than the one I got.

I hope you still do.

I tell you all this because big things in your life will happen that will feel out of your control. It doesn’t even have to be as big as a national election. Some ordinary days, when money was tight for months or when decisions were made for us that we weren’t prepared for, your mom and I weren’t sure how we were going to get through it all.

The road ahead won’t always be an easy one. There will be days that feel insurmountable. With giant mountains that seem to be blocking your way. As a father, I hope to teach you to use that fire inside you to fight through it. One day at a time. One hour at a time, if that’s what it takes.

You will lose. You might not feel safe and you might worry. You might be mad or sad. Some days, it will feel very tough to escape that feeling.

But open up a coloring book or play a sport. Go to school or to work. Wake up the next morning and be with the people you love. Laugh and eat ice cream. Volunteer and put the motor inside of you to good work.

You’ll be okay. We’ll be okay. Even if we don’t know how.



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O.C. Tanner and The Long Shift


O.C. Tanner, one of the oldest HR providers, invited me to their first ever analyst day and told me I would have fun and maybe learn something. They were mostly right.

First, let’s back up a bit. Imagine being Microsoft over the last five years.

Incremental revenue from new computer sales continues to drop. Your popular Office productivity suite isn’t getting bought at the rate it used to and is facing stiffer competition.

Microsoft’s cash cow was slowly going away. What they ultimately need is a recurring revenue model that expands beyond the realm of consumer and business personal computers. And for the last few years, they’ve been the subject of ridicule for not being able to figure out “what’s next.”

It’s not like they’re the only ones. IBM continues to try to figure out a way forward, while casting out tens of thousands of people. Innovating is tough, especially when you’ve made so much money, for so long, doing what you do and become so good at it.

The point here for those companies still firmly entrenched in rewards and recognition is that there is a shift happening. Based on what I saw at the analyst day at O.C. Tanner’s headquarters, there seems to be a strong recognition of this reality but some trepidation about how to move forward.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • When it comes to revenue, O.C. Tanner believes they are the top dog in the rewards and recognition space. Other companies may have more revenue — like BI Worldwide or Maritz, but they only derive a small portion of their overall revenue from employee recognition.
  • They are putting that revenue back into innovating. We saw some interesting previews, especially on the wellness side of the equation. There’s uncertainty about how much they are funding the Tanner Labs portion of their business, though.
  • They’ve clearly invested in supply chain management and lean manufacturing, though. Their operation, located just south of downtown Salt Lake City, is something that was a big surprise to me. It shouldn’t have been, given Tanner’s legacy business.
  • They talked a lot about disrupting themselves, and I have no doubt they can, but there is a level of speed and agility that needs to be achieved in order to innovate in a way that isn’t disruptive to the long-term vision of their organization. I don’t think they are there quite yet.

Other analysts seemed baffled by the revenue numbers given by the folks at O.C. Tanner — as well as where exactly they fit in the scheme of HR technology. To be fair though, most tech analysts haven’t been following this space as closely as we have. There is still growth to be had, but the nature of that growth is changing.

The focus is really on engagement and turning employee engagement into serviceable business outcomes — performance, profitability, retention, etc… While trying to hit that target, they are also trying to hit a moving target of employee preferences.

The real question that needs to be answered is this: Can the same skills that drive the obviously great attention to supply chain and manufacturing management also drive a company where that advantage could slowly erode in favor of alternative rewards and a technology-driven recognition and engagement platform? If the backbone of the industry becomes that recognition and engagement component rather than reward fulfillment — which is where a vast majority of these companies pick up their revenue — what happens to O.C. Tanner?

The advantages for Tanner are also what might hold it back: Their legacy. A parade of decade-plus employees presented to us. Their strength and desire to keep fighting and be top dog in this space is clear, but they may need an infusion of new blood as well to challenge long-held assumptions and market behaviors.

Other quick notes:

  • They are going through a gigantic refresh of their facilities.
  • Their internal creative agency does some amazing work.
  • Their supply chain management beats most retailers.
  • The lean manufacturing capabilities really can’t be overstated. It is a pretty incredible site to see it integrated in with a white collar workforce.
  • Salt Lake City was actually pretty nice, and I ended the evening with some nice bourbon.
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Embracing Incremental Progress at #HRTechConf


There’s a good chance that the next phone you’re going to buy is going to be a lot like the phone you currently have, regardless of how long you plan to keep it. The same is true for the solutions you see if you go to the conference for all things HCM and tech next month.

I’ve been to the HR Technology Conference my fair share of times over the course of the last few years. It is a top notch show. But if you’re coming to get your mind blown by something new, you should slow your roll.

I’m not getting too cynical here. At least, not yet. There is a lot of really neat, useful technology on show. Great ideas, too — about robots, AI, big data, and more. I can’t wait to see it.

We’ll hear practitioners talk about not just catching up but leaping ahead — arm in arm with the provider that ostensibly helped them get there. These are interesting stories. Sometimes.

I’ve spent the better part of the year talking to solution providers and digging into their customer base, across a spectrum of HCM solutions. You know what I learned?

HR is messy.

Just kidding, I knew that already. It was just reinforced in a big way.

There’s good news. We’re making progress in some areas. Budgets are generally either rising or staying even. There’s an appetite for change.

But there’s so much to change.

Research we did at The Starr Conspiracy in 2014 showed that most large organizations had at least three learning management systems. Talent acquisition organizations have even more solutions. One company I talked to had more than 30 across their large, global organization.

People talk about rip and replace but that simply doesn’t happen. Not if the initial system had any value.

Earlier this summer, we published our research on the employee engagement landscape. A major change is coming to HR technology, but I’m under no delusions that it’s going to be a swift change. A few organizations are taking the first steps, though.

The excitement in the major shifts in technology spreads longitudinally. Not across a few days, but across months and years. With blips of excitement — like when a conference like HR Tech comes around or a significant funding, acquisition, or customer implementation gets announced.

Embrace it. Love it. And if you’ll be there, drop me a line so we can connect.

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Encourage Jury Service

You want a simple way that HR can change the world? Encourage your employees to participate in jury duty.

I’m thinking about it this week because my wife got called into jury duty. Now, it’s inconvenient. Her work is ramping up for the busy season. I need to go out of town tomorrow.

The good thing is her work is understanding. She had previously postponed because she would’ve needed to reschedule two important trips.

There are a litany of articles out there about getting out of jury service, most of which are bullshit. As I was looking for a way to bail her out, I got to thinking about the times when coworkers or friends told me about getting out of jury duty because of work obligations or because their boss put pressure on them.

That’s too bad. If I ever got in trouble with the law, I’d want people like my wife on the jury. Busy, employed people are the types of people we need to serve on juries. The people that make smart decisions at work and are invaluable are also likely to be very capable jurors.

I don’t know if there is any way to measure the possible injustice that having a less capable jury in place results in. Maybe my assumptions are off and we’re doing just fine. But I don’t think it would hurt to have more people willing and able to serve on a jury.

Regardless of the possible legal ramifications of employers dissuading jury service or the ethical questions about duty, if HR wants to make a small mark on the world, don’t be an employer that tries to steer employees clear of jury service. A great employee can be a great contributor to our justice system.

I coincidentally also got called to serve on a jury earlier this year and had it postponed until December. If called, I do plan on serving for those same reasons.

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When Being One of the Best isn’t Good Enough


The corruption of the Olympics is pretty staggering but it’s not the most interesting story from the games. The real question remains: Why do elite athletes do this to themselves?

I’m not trying to be glib here, either.

Getting into the top percentile of anything — especially sports — is difficult, but not impossible, for almost anybody. You can become one of the greatest in your field or your sport.

But becoming the greatest, even for a snapshot of time? That’s damn near impossible.

So this year at the Olympics, you had 11,000+ athletes going for 306 gold medals. Yet, for almost every one of those athletes, they had to beat incredible odds just to get there. Hundreds of thousands of potential Olympians were left at home. And millions compete in all the sports, and some even number the billions.

The storylines were fascinating to me. In the context of the Olympic games, the term “failure” is something that shouldn’t be uttered about any of the athletes that somehow make it to the games.

Even the term “disappointment,” which was used about many of the athletes who didn’t live up to — in any other situation — expectations of truly unbelievable proportions, seems strange. So instead of placing first in a sport, they placed fifth? Or 12th? Or 23rd? But they still made it to the Olympics. Any of their contemporaries at home would probably give anything to have the chance to compete for the last spot.

I get it the competition factor. If you’re an elite athlete, you want the chance to prove you’re the best. But being the best is also a matter of things outside of an athlete’s span of control. Everything from body type to timing of when you’re in peak physical shape relative to the Olympics is out of even the best athletes hands.

Then you have every sprinter that has had to line up beside Usain Bolt for a race these past three Olympics. Should getting second place against a once-in-a-lifetime force give you any other emotion other than extreme accomplishment? You couldn’t beat Bolt? Join the 7 billion+ people who couldn’t either. And by the way, you beat all of those people, too.

Not too many Olympians will admit to just being happy to be at the Olympics, especially right after the sting of an earlier-than-expected defeat. In the moment of victory, all eyes are upon the greatest — or maybe a 6–12 hours later if you’re watching NBC’s coverage.

But this week and in the years that pass, every person that didn’t medal at the Olympics still probably put the Olympics as a highlight of their life and a pinnacle of all they worked toward accomplishing.

To me, the best thing about the Olympics is celebrating all of those amazing athletes. It’s a reminder that greatness is almost always within reach, whether you want to be a great athlete or just a great dad.

Being the greatest is special and it’s something worth celebrating, too. But I do wonder if we lose something by not acknowledging the feat of simply being there is enough? It seems antithetical to being American, where we take home more gold than anyone. But in this case, I’ll take that.